What are Screendance Competition Even for? — by Hamish MacPherson
“…the Jury’s favorite, “Choreography for the Scanner,” directed by Mariam Eqbal (USA), which features an animation of a distorted scanned image of a ballet dancer. But is it dance? That’s the big question right? The choice causes some surprise in the audience and one person expresses their dismay on Facebook (eliciting an amusingly extensive reply from the Jury2). This reminds me of people complaining that there’s not enough dancing in the Place Prize.3 Both cases come down to the question of whether these are dancing or dance-making or choreography competitions. If an animation wins then I guess it’s choreography but by using an image that is perhaps most emblematic of dance to a predominantly white European audience it seems to lose its nerve as if to still be in with a chance. If we say that to dance requires an intention and self awareness then an animated picture of a dancer isn’t dancing any more or any less than an animated picture of a corpse or a tree or a triangle. But arguably you can still make a dance with things that aren’t dancing and an animated human certainly feels more like a dance.
So I can see why this is the most interesting work for the judges because it raises the most questions but the internal form of the work is less interesting to me. It saunters along with a light humor and its aesthetics hark back to the past but I wonder how thought-provoking it would be for me without the frame of the competition or this writing I am doing now.
In between these two outliers we have a range of works with recognizable contemporary dance vocabulary within creative camera work, special effects, and editing. Dancing often appears as a worn metaphor for inner youth, emotion, and torment embalmed in slick camera work. The best the Jury can say for the second prize winner “Approaching the Puddle” directed by Sebastian Gimmel (Germany) is that “Whilst the form is neither challenging the dance film genre, or the content a game changer, this film is nonetheless a delightful experience for the audience.” But again this is just a problem from my perspectives on dance. Many people just want something … delightful.”